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Tech Tuesday: How to Communicate to the Terminally Distracted

Tech Tuesday: How to Communicate to the Terminally Distracted

by Frank Roche on June 8, 2010

in KnowHR

Common wisdom is now turning against technology-based multitasking as the least effective way to manage one’s time.  We all know that person who uses his/her blackberry all the way through dinner or checks email obsessively throughout the day.  And studies are showing that responding to constant interruptions are re-wiring our brains in such a way that we are permanently less able to focus.

So what does this mean in terms of communication?  Technology has obviously created the burden of short attention spans in your intended audience.  You’re fighting a din of email, tweets, Facebook updates, and text messages.  Anything you do to try to get through has to be short, sweet, and squeeze the most information into the least space possible.  Fortunately, technological innovations can also help you in your quest to provide an experience with enough razzmatazz to hold your target’s interest.

Here are a few concrete technology-based ways to liven up communication to your intended audience:

  • Fight fire with fire.  Join Twitter.  The 140 character limit means you will carefully evaluate every word you use for its ability to pack informational punch.  But be careful: Twitter makes it very easy to tweet useless details.  Don’t bore your followers; make sure every tweet is something new.  While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow us.
  • Forget the dead trees.  You no longer need to send out a paper newsletter, or paper catalogues.  The only time you should need to send out something that requires a stamp is when you need a personal touch (holiday cards, for example) but for everything else, paper is déclassé.  If you need paper business cards, make sure they are funny or interesting, or out with the trash they will likely go.
  • When designing websites or web products, ensure instantaneous response.  500 milliseconds matters a lot to your users.  There are a number of technical ways to go about this that won’t negatively impact your users’ experience.
  • Use simple but unique visuals.  With so many stock photo websites now available, there’s no excuse for using inappropriate or boring images in your communications.  Just don’t.  If the image looks like it’s something you’ve seen somewhere before, it’s because you have.  Additionally, make sure graphics that provide data are as concise and informative as possible.  Here’s a good example of informational graphic WIN.

Using these tips should help you to reach the technologically-attention-deficit-disordered audience of today.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that you need present something that a reader would want to come back to, even if he or she were distracted mid-sentence.  Now let me just go check my email one more time before I finish writing…

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